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Your Students Will Go Wild With These Art Lessons on Wildlife

written by: thatbluegirl • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 6/6/2012

There are many ways in which the art teacher can easily incorporate wildlife into their lesson plans. One of the easiest ways is to use nature. The possibilities for using plants, flowers, and trees are endless! Here are some ideas to get you started:

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    The Big Natural World of Possibilities

    Still Life Drawings - Set up a still life of plants. Students in the middle school and high school can use charcoal or graphite pencils to draw the plants in detail, using shading, light, and dark. Big leafy plants work the best.

    Little Turned Big - Using the same idea of a plant still life, have elementary students select a section of the plant to draw "big". For example a small leaf would fill up their entire paper.

    Van Gogh Sunflowers -Set up a still life vase of sunflowers and have students draw or paint the sunflowers. Students could experiment with texture & paint, use watercolors, colored pencil, or oil pastels.

    Leaf Drawing - Leaves are a great resource! Using a leaf as a texture, have students reproduce the leaf on paper paying special attention to line and shape. Little ones can trace and color in the shapes with crayons. Students could also draw the leaves with crayon and go over their drawings with watercolor paint.

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    The Arty Animal World

    Using animals are another great way to create wildlife lessons into the curriculum. Most students enjoy learning about and creating animal art. Here are some fun lesson plans:

    Textured Animals - Using a reference, have students draw an animal in complete detail paying close attention to detail. Middle School and High School students should be able to draw realistic looking animals with graphite pencils. For the Elementary level, have children bring in their favorite stuffed animal and have them draw with oil pastels paying attention to texture, light, and dark.

    Fantasy Animals -Have students research and select two (or more!) animals they like. Using references, have students combine elements of both animals into a new breed. Have them color with colored pencils.

    Eric Carle Animals - Students can learn about texture, color, and pattern by studying various animals. Have students use full sheets of paper to recreate these designs. For example, use paint to create a sheet of paper with tiger stripes. Once all the textures and patterns are finished, have students use the paper to cut out animal shapes via the style of Eric Carle.

    Wire Sculpture Animals -To learn about shape, line, and space, have students select their favorite animal and using colored craft wire, make an animal sculpture. Students would need to decide if they were going to make just the head of the animal or full body. Will their design be 2D or 3D?

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    Wildlife Creatures - Birds, Fish, and Insects

    Lastly, birds, fish, and insects are great sources for lesson plans! There are so many different concepts related to these wildlife creatures! How about some of these projects?:

    Aboriginal Bird Sculptures - Students learn and study Aboriginal dot painting. Using paper bags or brown craft paper, students cut out two identical bird shapes. They design and paint the bird in using the dot method. Once both sides have dried, students staple both sides together leaving an opening on the bottom. Stuff the bird with crumpled newspaper and finish stapling.

    Pop (Soda) Bottle Fish Sculptures - A great way to recycle two liter pop bottles! Using the neck of the bottle as the fish mouth, students cut tails on the other end. With Sharpie markers, students draw patters and details on the outside and then color the inside with gel pens or paint. The tails are then stapled closed.

    A Bug's Life - This is a great way to teach Elementary students about composition. Have students select their favorite type of bug. Discuss size and placement of bugs on the paper along with environments and the use of scale. Have students include a big bug, middle sized bug, and smaller bug to help teach them about space. This lesson could be done as a watercolor resist with crayons. Compositions should fill up their page.

    Oaxacan Relief Fish - Students will study the animals of Oaxaca and the unique way these folk animals were painted. Using slab building, they will create fish out of clay-using tools to create patterns and designs. Once the fish are fired they can be glazed or painted in bright colors to mimic the painting style of the Oaxacan animals.

    Here are some links to other great wildlife art lessons:

    Making a Nature Journal

    Egg-cellent Nature Cartons: Art Inspired by Nature!

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